November in Alberta? Grey Cup players ready to play in T-shirts
'Balmy' temperatures expected in Edmonton on Sunday
It's November in Alberta yet tackle Derek Dennis will wear a short-sleeve shirt Sunday when the Calgary Stampeders face the Ottawa Redblacks in the Grey Cup.
But thanks to Mother Nature, the burly offensive lineman won't be alone.
In other words, ideal conditions for the six-foot-three, 345-pound Dennis, the CFL's top lineman in 2016 when he made his first Grey Cup appearance with Calgary.
"I was here for the 2016 West final and I can't remember what the temperature was but it was cold," Dennis said following Calgary's final walkthrough of the season. "I always wear a short sleeve shirt regardless of the weather but you know, this here is nice."
Jon Gott clearly agreed. The colourful Ottawa offensive lineman, who chugged a beer in the Redblacks' regular-season finale, participated in the club's walkthrough in shorts.
Dennis and his linemates are obviously ready. Following Saturday's walkthrough, they participated in a game of bocci on the Commonwealth Stadium turf.
This will mark the second Grey Cup meeting between these two teams in three years. In 2016, the 8-9-1 Redblacks earned a stunning 39-36 overtime victory over Calgary (15-2-1) in Toronto.
Dennis feels he might've jinxed the Stampeders when he touched the Grey Cup prior to that game. This week, Dennis made sure Calgary rookies kept their distance from the hallowed trophy.
"It was my first professional championship game and I didn't know it was frowned upon," Dennis said. "I was standing around it and someone said, 'Do what you want,' which was the wrong thing to say.
"So I've tried to be that veteran to lead the way for the young guys. Hopefully we can win it and get our chance to hold it."
Trying to get a grip on playing surface
Saturday's walkthrough was Calgary's second session at Commonwealth, while Ottawa's workout Saturday was its first here. Despite Stampeders receiver Markeith Ambles suffering an injury Friday — he won't play Sunday after being stepped on — head coach Dave Dickenson felt it was good to get into the stadium and get a feel for the playing surface before Sunday's game.
"I won't say it's the greatest chess move in the world but I think it's something we've done differently," Dickenson said. "It's just still a football game, you've got to go out there and outplay the other team and make more plays."
But Calgary receiver Chris Matthews said footing could be an issue as players wearing cleats Saturday had issues slipping.
"Cleats are out," he said. "I don't see it happening unless they do some real work on this ground.
"That's not going to stop anything. I'm still going to go out there and route up some DBs. It's going to make it look even better now that I get to route somebody up and they slip and fall."
A sellout gathering of roughly 55,000 will see the top two teams in each division square off. Calgary finished atop the West with a league-best 13-5 record while Ottawa was first in the East at 11-7.
The weather should set up for an enticing matchup between Ottawa's high-powered offence and a Calgary defence that was the CFL's stingiest.
Trevor Harris threw a playoff-record six TD passes in Ottawa's 46-27 East Division final win last weekend against Hamilton. Harris finished 29-of-32 passing for 367 yards in leading the Redblacks to a fourth straight victory this season versus the Tiger-Cats.
Ottawa's offence also boasts William Powell, the CFL's second-leading rusher with 1,362 yards and six TDs. The five-foot-nine, 207-pound Powell ran for 86 yards on 21 carries (4.1-yard average) last weekend.
Meanwhile, Calgary's defence led the CFL in fewest offensive points allowed (17.8 per game), offensive touchdowns (27), passing TDs (11), was tied for most sacks (45) and second in fewest offensive yards allowed (321.4).
Calgary's offence is definitely in good hands. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who threw a CFL-high 35 TDs this season, was named the league's outstanding player for a second time this week.